An author friend of mine suggested a self-editing program she uses–AutoCrit. I tried it and I found it was indeed an eye opener. It called me out on all the words I overuse. However, unless I wanted to pay something like $79 a year for the pleasure of using the tool, I could only paste 500 (or maybe it was 800 words) in at a time, and there was a limit to the number of uses per day. For an 80,000 word novel, that would suck. So when self-editing my recently released NEW ORLEANS short story, I ran a sample through, knew where my challenges and problem areas were, and kept those in mind while word-smithing the work. It definitely helped tighten the writing in the piece.
Shortly after, I read (I think in GalleyCat MediaBistro) about another program that sounded like it did the same thing as AutoCrit so I checked it out. It was SmartEdit. It’s free to download, at least for now, and it analyzes the entire document as a whole at once. It finds, counts and lists the follwing: clichés, dialogue tags, repeated words, and ‘ly’ words. You click on one of the items in the results list and it sends you to that spot in the manuscript so you can fix it. And, this is key—I can make the changes right in the document from within the program window and it saves them to the file in Dropbox!
With this self-editing program, my writing is tighter. I can find those overused words. It picks out the ‘ly’ words that sneak in far too often. Hopefully this will make first round edits with my various editors easier, for both of us.
CONS: No Mac support. This is a big one for me since though I am a PC girl, born and bred, my boss provides me with a MacBook and I am now a Mac user and convert. So to use SmartEdit I need to save my .Doc files to .RTF (there’s no .doc or .docx support) in Dropbox on the MAC. Then I go over to another desk and boot up an old PC that has the SmartEdit program installed on it. I retrieve the RTF file from the automatically synced Dropbox folder on my PC and I do my edits over there on my very old PC (so old it’s running Windows XP). It’s so slow I can’t connect to the internet or turn on anything else. Not IM. Not email alerts. Nothing. So I actually have to concentrate on work. So maybe it’s not such a bad thing afterall.
Mac support or not, it’s valuable enough of a tool, I’m willing to make the extra effort.